New York State and City Join Forces Against Trump

Separate investigations are merging, with a criminal component being added.

News broke last night that New York City is joining forces with New York state authorities in their criminal investigation of the Trump organization.

WaPo (“Investigation of Trump Organization now exploring possible criminal conduct, N.Y. attorney general’s office says“):

New York Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation into the Trump Organization is now considered a criminal matter, James’s office said Tuesday night, noting that officials with the former president’s company were recently apprised of the development.

“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the company is no longer purely civil in nature,” said Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA. We have no additional comment at this time.”

The attorney general’s notification to the Trump Organization suggested a cooperative relationship has developed between investigators working for James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., whose office has been heading a criminal probe into the company and its officers since 2018. Both officials are Democrats. A person familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the district attorney was not specifically mentioned in James’s letter to Trump’s company.

This is another instance where having prosecutors be elected, partisan officials is problematic. I have little doubt that the Trump organization engaged in nefarious, quite probably even criminal, conduct. But having politically-motivated officials with the full resources of the state behind the investigation is bad optics. (The same, of course, was true of politically-appointed Attorney General ultimately in charge of the DOJ probe into Trump led by the independent counsel Robert Mueller.)

The attorney general’s decision appears to have increased the legal risk that former president Donald Trump faces in New York, where the parallel investigations run by James and Vance had already delved more deeply into Trump’s byzantine finances than any law enforcement authorities ever had.

Previously, the danger posed by James’s investigation seemed to be merely financial — the kind of lawsuit Trump had faced from New York attorneys general before over his Trump University and his charity. Those cost him money but didn’t threaten his liberty.

Now, however, James could also seek criminal penalties. And she appears to be cooperating with Vance’s office, a move that could allow the two wide-ranging investigations to share data.

Alan Garten, an attorney for the Trump Organization, declined to comment. Trump and his representatives have repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying the investigations are baseless and politically motivated.

Again, I have little doubt that there is a sound legal basis for both the original investigation and the move into a criminal investigation. But, rather obviously, they’re at least partly motivated by politics.

CNN‘s report (“New York attorney general adds ‘criminal capacity’ to probe of Trump Organization“) adds:

In an increasingly serious sign for former President Donald Trump, the attorney general’s office is working with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, whose wide-sweeping probe into the Trump Organization has looked into whether the company misled lenders and insurance companies about the value of properties and whether it paid the appropriate taxes. James’ notification to the organization brings a new level of potential legal risk to the former President, with the attorney general now able to seek criminal penalties as part of the probe.

[…]

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office is examining millions of pages of documents that include Trump’s tax returns.

A person familiar with the investigation said a couple of investigators with the New York attorney general’s office, who are steeped in knowledge about the Trump Organization, have joined the district attorney’s team. A different person familiar

Finally, NYT (“New York’s Attorney General Joins Criminal Inquiry Into Trump Organization“) adds:

For months, the district attorney’s office has focused on Mr. Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, mounting an aggressive effort to gain his cooperation against Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization, according to people with knowledge of the matter. As part of that effort, the district attorney has subpoenaed records from Mr. Weisselberg’s bank and the private school in Manhattan that his grandchildren have attended.

None of the reports give an indication of the expected timelines or the way forward. That is, would Trump and company have to fight civil and criminal proceedings separately? Or would the cases be combined into a single, presumably state-level, case?

Given Trump’s stature and army of lawyers, I’d expect it to be a long time, indeed, before a civil suit actually got underway. Presumably, though, it would be harder to delay a criminal proceeding.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said in the open forum:

    We’ve been disappointed before.

    I’ll repeat Solon’s advice (paraphrased): Count no one happy until the Turd d’Orange wears the orange jumpsuit.

    More likely there will be some negotiations, a few plea deals, and a scapegoat everything can be blamed on, while the Turd complains incessantly about it.

    8
  2. CSK says:

    I would think that the criminal case would take precedence, and a conviction would certainly bolster the following civil case.

    8
  3. Teve says:

    State crimin’ convictions have to be unanimous. You’re gonna assemble 12 randos and not one will be a Trumper? That Voir’s gonna be awfully Dire.

    9
  4. Tim D. says:

    The Trump years are more evidence that the justice system does a bad job at holding wealthy and politically connected people accountable for their actions.

    12
  5. Kathy says:

    @Tim D.:

    That depends on what the purpose of the system is regarding such people.

    I would support a law stating outright a sitting president is subject to investigation, arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and any other common measures usually undertaken by the criminal justice system against any other person in the country.

    In this particular case, trump should have been arrested shortly after the January Putsch, along with the other 400+ traitors, then spent the remainder of his term either in jail or out on bail.

    3
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s going to be fun when Ivanka has to flip on her dad to save herself.

    2
  7. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Tiffany must be thanking her lucky stars that her father had no use for her.

    3
  8. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That’s what I’m thinking. There’s bound to be people in the organization who realize that the plane is on fire and there aren’t enough parachutes for everybody who wants one. “The first person to sing gets to jump.”

    3
  9. CSK says:

    @Teve:
    The jury pool will be from Manhattan, which voted for Biden 84.5% to 14.5%. Probably far less of a chance the jurors will be pro-Trump.

    Now if the jury pool was coming from Staten Island, that would be different story.

    3
  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    And what’s the over/under on Hope Hicks wanting a parachute (or revenge of some sort even)?

    2
  11. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    She’s apparently still tight with Trump, Ivanka, and Jared.

    3
  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    The ideal crime is one committed solo. The synonym for crime partner is witness for the prosecution*. Ivanka has kids, if the prosecutors say, ‘we gotcha, Ivanka, and for the next five years you’ll be wearing an orange onesie when your kids come on visiting day, unless. . .’ she’ll roll over on daddy.

    *(No hard feelings for Kathy F. who rolled over on me. I knew the rules. OTOH I never gave up Billy W. who AFAIK went on to live a prison-free life in Glen Burnie, MD.)

  13. Jen says:

    I’m tired of being disappointed, so I really hope there is some “there there” this time.

    I find it almost impossible to imagine that he and that lot haven’t done numerous illegal things (heck, they were violating campaign finance laws out in the open but those rarely have teeth), so more power to those working on this.

    1
  14. mattbernius says:

    I expect that this is going to be covered on “All the Presidents’ Lawyers” this week. I suspect that people are making a much bigger deal out of this than it (sadly) deserves.

    1
  15. CSK says:

    Trump says that this is “a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in history” as well as a way to “cancel millions of voters” and prevent him from running in 2024.

  16. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “It’s going to be fun when Ivanka has to flip on her dad to save herself.”

    It’s a new logic problem — the scumbag’s dilemma.

    4
  17. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    Oh, there is a there there in there, no question.

    The problem is making it stick.

    2
  18. dazedandconfused says:

    @CSK:

    The book keeper probably folded the moment the instruments of torture were displayed. Ivanka won’t be needed.

    1
  19. CSK says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    If by “bookkeeper” you mean Weisselberg, I agree.

    2
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    Weisselberg legal expenses are mounting and he knows that TFG won’t pay them. Going to jail isn’t the nice retirement that he was anticipating. He’s folded.

  21. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    On top of the legal expenses, he must also know that Trump will throw him under the bus, just as Trump does everyone else whom he perceives as crossing him.

    1
  22. JKB says:

    Months and months and yet so far they’ve only offered press releases. When they put forth something the city and state will have to defend in front of a judge, then well see. Right now, it’s all PR and imposition of the costs of the process on a political opponent.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    Hey, genius, answer me:

    Who was elected president in a free and fair election in 2020?

    Until you can answer that, fuck off, because you’re a liar and nothing a liar says is of use or interest to anyone. You’re a nothing.

    2
  24. Jax says:

    @JKB: How many levels of corruption would it take, for you, personally, to make you stop carrying water for The Former Failed President?

    3
  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: My sense is that Hope probably knows “where the bodies are buried,” so to speak. If they were my bodies, that would also mean that she would be joining them shortly (h/t Mr. Reynolds–and no, I’m not as sporting as you are). I don’t see Javanka and TFG as having the ruthlessness it takes to take care of that problem, but if she’s tight with them it doesn’t matter… much.

    For the record, I have no bodies to find and not even Luddite knows where they are anyway.

    1
  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    The jury pool will be from Manhattan, which voted for Biden 84.5% to 14.5%. Probably far less of a chance the jurors will be pro-Trump.

    Possibly. The most logical rationale for this cooperation that I see is that Vance’s jurisdiction is limited to the borough. James is the entire state. Given Trump’s propensity for legions of shells, it’s entirely conceivable that the civil investigations have unearthed potentially criminal conduct that spans jurisdictions. The sharing of information / resources angle is certainly relevant as well.